The military has long used drones for surveillance and to take out terrorists, but the roofing industry is getting closer to being able to use drones for commercial purposes. And roofers aren’t the only companies that will benefit from drone and image capture technologies – farmers, railroads, security services and medical facilities are among the many industries eager to have an eye in the sky.
How the Technology is Used
Drones – also termed unmanned aerial systems or remotely piloted vehicles – offer dozens of commercial applications due to their ability to capture high-resolution video in areas that people and vehicles can’t easily reach. And the technology is surprisingly affordable; a simple drone set-up including camera can be purchased for less than $1,000. For the roofing industry in particular, drones have several valuable uses, such as:
- Gathering information for an estimate.
- Performing visual inspections to assess damage or look for potential problems.
- Documenting the progress of any job site.
- Before-and-after photos for marketing purposes.
White Castle Roofing, based in Lincoln, Nebraska, has been successfully using a drone to speed up its workflow. For example, the company needed to submit a job estimate for roof repair on 11 four-story buildings in an apartment complex. With the help of a drone, they were able to perform a video inspection in one hour instead of the usual six hours – all without employees setting foot on any of the roofs.
What’s to Come
The trouble is, government regulations administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently declare drone use illegal for commercial operations. However, the FAA does not have a way to monitor and track the flights, and no manpower to enforce the regulations. It also grants numerous exemptions for drone use if a business can prove it does not violate national airspace laws, and doesn’t pose a threat to the public or national security.
There’s no doubt drones will eventually be used in the roofing industry. While the FAA catches up with the rapid advancement of drone technologies and how they should be used for commercial purposes, contractors can look forward to adding this technology to their toolbox to benefit their companies and their customers.
Stay tuned for more industry updates from DOT Metal Products®, a Gibraltar Industries Company and the region’s leading manufacturer of metal building products.